THE new A-League season has finally kicked off again!
To get everyone in the mood, here is an A to Z of an often turbulent off-season.
From Aaron Mooy to zzzz!
A — Aaron Mooy
After enjoying a stand-out debut season with Melbourne City, he has been elevated to marquee status. Mooy scored a club-high seven goals and had eight assists in 27 matches last season.
The 25-year-old signed a three-year contract extension despite reported interest from clubs overseas. He is also an integral member of Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos side.
B — Brisbane Roar troubles
Grand final winners just two seasons ago, Roar have been plagued by financial troubles all off-season. There was even concern club owners — the Bakrie Group — could have lost control of the club if they failed to clear their debts. Not the greatest start to John Aloisi’s coaching tenure.
C — Clean-out
Both the Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers decided on major personnel upheaval after a disappointing season. For the Mariners it was more of a financial matter, but still, 13 players were shown the door. It wasn’t as bad at Western Sydney but there are only three players left now from the club’s inaugural season.
D — Daniel De Silva
After impressing in two seasons with Perth Glory, the 18-year-old Aussie starlet headed back to Europe to link up with Dutch club Roda. There was considerable conjecture over his eventual landing spot as Italian giants AS Roma initially had his contract before some late twists and turns.
E — Eli Babalj
Still only 23, the giant Socceroos striker is back in the A-League with Adelaide on loan from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. He burst onto the scene at Melbourne Heart as a 17-year-old. Babalj has spent the best part of the last three years in Europe.
F — FFA Cup
The knockout tournament continues to go from strength to strength and provides an ideal lead-up to the season proper for A-League teams. And it continues to throw up a fairytale or two. last year it was Bentleigh Greens, this year it’s Victorian National Premier League side Hume City.
G — Gombau gone
After delighting the A-League with his antics for two seasons, the Adelaide coach dropped a bombshell in July by quitting the club and moving to New York. Lucky Adelaide had a ready-made replacement in Guillermo Amor.
H — Hutcho
John Hutchison is now assistant manager at the Central Coast Mariners after calling time on his 10-year A-League career. He retired after setting the record number of competition appearances with 228, although that is set to be overtaken by Danny Vukovic and Andrew Durante this season.
I — Industrial action
The battle between the FFA and the PFA over a new collective bargaining agreement has been raging all off-season — and won’t be resolved by the time of the A-League kick-off either. While the tone between the parties has been more conciliatory in recent times, it was only a month or so ago that the Matildas — who wanted more money in the wake of their World Cup exploits — went on strike and their tour to the US was cancelled.
J — Janko
Austrian star Marc Janko — the competition’s leading goalscorer last season with 16 — was not offered a contract extension by Sydney FC and now plays with Swiss giants FC Basel, where he has scored five goals in five games. Oh, and he has spearheaded Austria’s push into the Euro 2016 finals in France, scoring in the recent win over Sweden.
K — Keogh
Much-hyped Irish striker Andy Keogh opted out of his contract with Perth Glory in late July to take up a lucrative contract in Thailand. Keogh, of course, was the central focus of last season’s salary cap drama that led to Perth being stripped of their place in the A-League finals, but he also scored 12 goals and his presence in front of goal will be sorely missed out west.
L — Leonardo
Newcastle Jets have gone Brazilian again with Leonardo Vitor Santiago. Let’s hope it goes better for them than Mario Jardel, Denni and Bernardo Ribeiro did. Leonardo does come with an impressive pedigree having played with clubs the calibre of Feyenoord and Ajax. And the winger is not short on confidence either. “People don’t know me now, but they will love me.’’
M — Mike Mulvey
The former Brisbane Roar coach added to the off-season drama at the club by announcing he was suing them for ‘not providing promised remuneration from an amended third employment agreement’. Mulvey, who had taken the club to the double in 2013-2014, was dumped by the club last November and now coaches in Thailand.
N — Nicholls
One-time starlet Mitch Nichols is starting all over again — again. The 26-year-old — who made his A-League debut aged 18 in 2007 — is now playing for his fourth A-League club after signing with Western Sydney Wanderers. it follows on stints with Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory. And there is still plenty of time to add the other six clubs to his resume.
O — Overseas stars
There may not be the big names but there is still plenty of quality in this season’s collection. Names to watch out for include Milos Ninkovic, Jeffrey Sarpong, Thomas Sorensen, Bruno Fornaroli, Corona, Diego Castro, Roy O’Donovan, Alberto, Federico Piovaccari and Leonardo.
P — Popovic
It’s an important season for Western Sydney Wanderers boss Tony Popovic. After the euphoria of their first two seasons, everything fell flat for the club in 2014-2015 and they finished second from bottom. Popovic has rebuilt his squad for the new season and expectations of a top three finish — let alone a top six — are again high. The only way is up!
Q — Question marks
Can Sydney FC bounce back from their grand final debacle? Will Melbourne City finally deliver? Can Newcastle and Brisbane bounce back from the off-season from hell? Can the Mariners deliver on a shoestring budget? Are Phoenix finally the real deal? Can Perth brush aside last season’s dramas? Can Adelaide thrive without Gombau? Are we going to see a Wanderers revival? And can anyone beat Melbourne Victory?
R — Referees
It’s been a long time coming but the A-League will see the first full-time referees this season. Financial constraints mean it’s only three to start with — Chris Beath, Jarred Gillett and Ben Williams — but the move has been widely welcomed.
S — Scott Miller
The Newcastle Jets have turned to the youngest coach in A-League history to turn around their fortunes. It’s been a barren — and turbulent — few seasons for the Jets and it’s hoped the 33-year-old Miller — who was a part of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou’s backroom staff in 2013 — cannot only offer some stability but also take the club forward.
T — Tony Walmsley
After a two-month audition, the Mariners stuck with the youth development guru as their head coach. And he has quite a job in front of him. The Mariners, who finished eighth last season, released 13 players and Walmsley has had to work on a shoestring budget to replace them, thus they have a very youthful-looking squad.
U — Unbelievably long break
It’s been 144 days since Melbourne Victory were crowned champions. That’s almost six months and the length of the off-season continues to be a major sore point. At least the players now have FFA Cup games, otherwise it’s healthy dose of practice matches to get used to.
The champions are the team to beat again. Even with the loss of Mark Milligan, Kevin Muscat has still assembled an impressive-looking squad that is sure to be the competition benchmark.
Armed with a fresh broadcast agreement that will see games shown on Fox Sports and the ABC, the W-League is set go from strength to strength this season. Interest in the women’s game is at an all-time high on the back of the Matildas excellent World Cup run. Games in the nine-team competition begin next weekend.
X — X-factor
Each team should have one. The player who has the class to open up the opposition. Someone who can provide the difference in a tight game. One’s to watch out for include Perth’s Nebojsa Marinkovic, Adelaide’s Sergio Cirio, Wellington’s Roly Bonevacia and, of course, Brisbane’s Thomas Broich.
Y — Youssouf Hersi
The diminutive 33-year-old made a cult hero at Western Sydney Wanderers before moving to Perth last season. Unfortunately a major hamstring injury ruined his time out west and he is currently a free agent.
Z — ZZZZZ!
Time to wake up everyone. The new season is upon us.
© 2015 Daily Telegraph | This article was written by Martin Gibbes and first originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 8 October 2015.